With new hospital charity care legislation scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2023, Minnesota hospitals must gear up to meet the mandate of screening patients for financial assistance eligibility ahead of debt collection. This requirement, though in the interest of patient care, could put significant strain on already-stretched hospital resources. The question now is, how can hospitals navigate this terrain and effectively manage the predicted surge in charity care applications? Keep reading for three tips to master the transition with ease.
1. Simplify Charity Care Policies & Eligibility Processes
In preparing for the new legislation, your first step should be to refresh and optimize your financial assistance policy (FAP). Factoring in recent compliance considerations, it’s crucial to ensure your policy and application processes are not “unreasonably burdensome” and are restricted only to information that is “relevant, reasonably necessary, and readily available to determine eligibility.”
A clear, streamlined policy that articulates the qualifications required for discount eligibility is paramount to a seamless transition. Every criterion used to assess financial assistance applications must be distinctly outlined in your policy. This step not only minimizes confusion but also reduces queries relating to patient eligibility for financial aid.
Moreover, it’s worthwhile to employ technology that expedites the eligibility verification process. There is no benefit in analyzing an application if the patient doesn’t meet the criteria stipulated in your specific policy. This strategic approach not only fast-tracks eligible patients but also alleviates the workload on your internal teams.
2. Embrace a Digital, User-Friendly Approach to Charity Care Applications!
The goal of your financial assistance program is two-fold: it is to determine which patients are unable to afford the financial cost of their care and connect them to the discounts they need to maintain affordable access to care, and to determine which patients do not qualify for charity care and should proceed through normal billing workflows. Having a streamlined, user-friendly approach facilitates this, benefiting both patients and the hospital staff handling the process.
Complex forms and requirements create barriers for both patients seeking assistance and staff managing the paperwork. Streamlining these applications—and making them available online—can alleviate confusion, lessen complexity and expedite the process.
Pro tip: Use simple language, provide clear instructions, and eliminate unnecessary requirements. This will not only aid patients but also alleviates the pressure on hospital staff responsible for processing these applications.
Before the new legislation comes into play, it’s essential to fine-tune your financial assistance program. This proactive step not only ensures compliance but also facilitates continued collections from patients with the ability to pay, thereby safeguarding your financial stability.
3. Consider Outsourcing or Supplementing Application Processing
In light of the new regulations, Minnesota hospitals will be required to proactively engage all uninsured patients for charity care screening. Furthermore, before offering a payment plan, patient loan, or proceeding with collections, the hospital must extend this screening to all patients. As stated, “The hospital must attempt to complete the screening process for charity care in person or by telephone within 30 days after the patient receives services at the hospital or at the emergency department associated with the hospital.” Therefore, having a patient-friendly, online financial assistance application in place can significantly simplify this process.
To manage the expected increase in charity care applications without overtaxing hospital resources, consider outsourcing or supplementing application processing. By entrusting the review, processing and outreach to a reliable external partner, hospitals can fulfill the mandate’s requirements while keeping their internal resources intact. This enables hospital staff to concentrate on other critical tasks, ensuring patients receive timely, efficient assistance.
While these impending changes present operational challenges, hospitals are prepared to embrace them for the sake of improved patient care. The hurdles that previously hindered progress, due to the lack of efficient tools, are now surmountable thanks to today’s advanced technologies and solutions. By adopting the right strategies and resources, hospitals can transition smoothly into the new regulatory landscape, upholding their enduring commitment to quality patient care.
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